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Endowments -- Building an Enduring Legacy

For most of its 100 years, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History has been fortunate in attracting some of the nation’s top talent as its directors, scientists, curators, educators, and exhibit designers. These gifted and passionate individuals are the Museum's greatest assets, along with its large and unique collections and extraordinary physical setting.

Estate gifts can be particularly appropriate ways to create permanent named endowments in support of the Museum’s core positions and programs. Such endowments constitute a lasting legacy and ensure that the Museum will continue to be able to attract the very best staff and offer critical services that make a difference.

Endowments may be named to recognize a donor who funds the endowment through an outright gift or through an estate gift. Endowments may also be named to honor or remember a loved family member, friend, or mentor. Gifts to the endowment of any size are appreciated. 

How Endowments Work

Endowments are funds given by donors with the intention of providing permanent and reliable support for a designated purpose. The funds are invested as part of the Museum’s aggregate endowment portfolio in such a way that income is drawn from the fund annually for the support of the designated program, while the principal is left untouched. Investment management and the calculations by which income is drawn from endowments are conservative so as to provide stable support in the face of inevitable fluctuations of financial markets and to protect the value of the endowment fund from the erosive forces of inflation.

The Museum’s investments are overseen by the Board of Trustees’ Investment Committee, composed of experienced investment professionals, and managed by carefully selected and supervised outside investment management firms. Endowments are the single most effective way for donors passionate about nature, science, the environment, education, and the quality of our community to leave a permanently lasting legacy.

Existing Endowed Positions and Programs:

Howard/Berry Chair of Malacology
Malacology, the study of mollusks, is one of the Museum’s major scientific strengths, and part of its worldwide renown. The prominence of the Museum’s vast shell collection and its scientific research staff is in part based on the support of two eminent shell collectors, Faye B. Howard and Dr. S. Stillman Berry. Howard's support of the Museum collections began in 1960 and continued until her death in 1984. Dr. Berry's collection and research spanned over 70 years, resulting in one of the greatest private collections ever compiled. Both these individuals left as bequests, not only their superb private collections, but also the funds to support the expansion of our Collections and Research Center and to endow this curatorial chair.

Thomas Wilson Dibblee Endowment for Earth Sciences
Tom was a great-great-grandson of Jose de la Guerra. He grew up on Rancho San Julian near Lompoc and studied geology at Stanford. He was a simple, unaffected man of limited means, but he was a giant in the field of geology. He personally walked nearly every square inch of southern California and accomplished a nearly unimaginable record of geological mapping. In 2001, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History partnered with Tom to publish his extraordinary geological maps, and Tom designated his estate for the support of the map publishing effort and to establish a chair of geology at the Museum. “The Museum means so much to me. This is the happiest day of my life,” said Tom, when his friends gathered to celebrate his gift.


Robert Dougan Fund for Innovative Education
Robert O. Dougan was a librarian, bibliophile, and scholar of Ireland’s greatest literary treasure, the Book of Kells. After an illustrious career in Scotland and Ireland, including Trinity College in Dublin, he came to California, where he took on the position of Head Librarian at the Huntington Library.

Feeling deeply about the importance of education and scholarship, Dougan provided in his estate an endowment fund to the Museum of Natural History to support innovative educational programs. As no photo remains of Mr. Dougan, a page from his beloved Book of Kells is included here.


John and Peggy Maximus Endowment for Antique Natural History Art
John and Peggy were both artistically talented individuals: John, a highly respected book illustrator, and Peggy, a gifted interior designer. Wanting to share their passion for both nature and art with others, they funded the creation of a gallery dedicated to antique natural history art at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History and provided for its continued support.

 The natural history art program makes our Museum unique and constitutes a remarkable legacy that will inspire many generations to come. The gallery mounts three exhibits every year, with each show a striking posthumous tribute to the vision and generosity of John and Peggy Maximus.


Schlinger Foundation Chair of Entomology
Evert I. Schlinger was passionate about nature and science. A world renowned entomologist, he was a professor of biology at the University of California, at Riverside and Berkeley. Believing ardently in the importance of museums for both research and education, Ev endowed the Schlinger Chair of Entomology at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. “Museums are crucial for the future of our scientific enterprise, and the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History [John and Peggy Maximus Endowment] is among the best in in the country,” said Ev.


Current Opportunities to Endow Key Positions:

President/CEO Endowed Chair
Many of the Museum’s past executives have come to Santa Barbara from leadership positions at prestigious institutions elsewhere and have played leadership roles on the national level. Luke Swetland, the current President/CEO of the Museum of Natural History, has previously served at the Autry National Center of the American West, the Getty Conservation Institute, the Japanese American National Museum, and the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. He is a member of the American Alliance of Museums and serves on the board of the California Association of Museums.


Curator of Anthropology Chair
Since its very beginning, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History has been a leader in research on the prehistoric and historic Native cultures of our region, making the Museum into the key repository of our region’s Native heritage. The curatorship of anthropology has been held by renowned scholars, among them David Banks Rogers, Phil C. Orr, and Travis Hudson. The current Curator of Anthropology, Dr. John Johnson, has gained international acclaim through his pioneering research in archaeology, ethno history, and the DNA history of Native peoples of southern California. Dr. Jan Timbrook, Curator of Ethnography, has established herself as a widely recognized scholar on the Native knowledge and use of plants and animals and as a superb expert on Native basketry.


Curator of Vertebrate Zoology
Older Santa Barbarans remember with fondness the legendary naturalist, Waldo Abbott, and the remarkable whale expert, Dr. Charles D. Woodhouse. Paul Collins, the current Curator of Vertebrate Zoology, follows in the footsteps of these great predecessors with nearly encyclopedic knowledge of local natural history. State and federal agencies, local environmental organizations, and individuals interested in nature rely on Paul’s research and expertise in managing our local natural resources. Paul’s depth of knowledge as a scientist is matched by his passion and skill as a teacher and communicator about science and the environment. Dr. Krista Fahy pursues important research on birds and the conservation of avian populations and is a gifted teacher as well.


Curator of Invertebrate Zoology
Our Museum’s great international reputation as a scientific institution is based on its vast collection of marine invertebrates and a superb staff of scientists conducting research in this field. The Museum’s stature in invertebrate marine biology was advanced significantly by the renowned scientist and artist, Curator Emeritus Dr. F.G. (Eric) Hochberg. The current Curator of Invertebrate Zoology, Dr. Daniel Geiger, and his colleagues, Dr. Henry Chaney and Paul Valentich Scott, continue to enhance our knowledge of global biodiversity by discovering, describing, and publishing on dozens of new species every year.


Sea Center Director
The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History’s Sea Center is a superb place for learning about our all-important marine environments. Its effectiveness is based on a combination of strengths: a stunning location above the waters of the Santa Barbara Channel, highly creative exhibit design, a passionate and skilled staff and volunteer corps, and great leadership. The center’s current director, Amanda Allen, combines a degree in business with advanced training in anthropology and marine sciences and embodies the model of a committed, skillful and tireless leader.

Education Director
In 1932, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History was a pioneer in the country by establishing a separate Department of Education. Many older Santa Barbarans remember with deep affection “Cookie,” the legendary teacher Irma Cook, whose work changed many lives. Today, the extensive programs of the Division of Education are an essential component in our region’s framework for science education and continue to play a central role in the Museum’s mission. These programs are ably led by Justin Canty, an experienced environmental education professional with background managing and developing various adult, school, and teen-focused programs at a variety of institutions.


Director of Library and Archives
The Library and Archives contain some of the Museum of Natural History’s most important treasures. They include rare antique books on natural history, reference collections for nature, environment, and Native American cultures, and archives of important local naturalists. Museum Librarian Terri Sheridan’s responsibilities include conservation of irreplaceable texts, care for contemporary library holdings, assisting Library and Archives users from Santa Barbara and around the country, and management of digital information resources.

Opportunities to Endow Key Programs:

Teen Education Program: Quasars to Sea Stars
One of the Museum’s most visionary, and effective, programs is the teen education program, Quasars to Sea Stars. Participating teens work in close association with Museum staff and researchers throughout their four high school years, learning the essentials of science, building personal life skills, developing leadership capabilities, and preparing for college. The program has changed many lives profoundly and is admired in the museum community around the country. The program is provided at no cost to the teens and their families. A named endowment to support the Quasars to Sea Stars program would constitute a visionary and perpetual legacy benefitting participating teens and the community as a whole.

Scholarship Fund for Science Camps
One of the Museum’s great strengths is its ability to provide hands-on, experiential education in nature. The inquiry based learning we offer is uniquely powerful and foundational for other learning in schools. Science camps for children ages 2-10 during winter and spring breaks and during  the summer have a profound effect on children’s long term educational success. An endowment to fund scholarships for children from disadvantaged backgrounds will help to awaken hidden potential, prepare for success in a world of increasing technological demands, and broaden the foundation of scientific literacy throughout our community.




Exhibits That Matter
Exhibits remain the primary means for connecting the Museum’s visitors with nature and a myriad of important topics and issues in natural science and the environment. A vigorous program of changing exhibits offers our visitors diversity and excitement, allows for continuing relevance, and ensures vitality. An endowment would support both the in-house development of powerful temporary displays and enable the Museum to bring to Santa Barbara some of the very best shows developed elsewhere in the world

Butterflies Alive!

Butterflies Alive! exhibit is one of our most popular attractions. The enchantment of the butterflies touches every visitor regardless of age, sex, or cultural back-ground. Because of its magical appeal, this exhibit is a great teaching tool—about science, the fabulously rich world of insects, and the intricate web of ecology. Landscaping needs, special staffing requirements, and the acquisition and care for live animals make it an expensive exhibit to mount. A fund to support these costs would ensure that the magic of this extraordinary display consistently reaches the hearts and minds of children age 1-100.

Leave No Child Inside
SBMNH is blessed to have a campus situated, not in an urban asphalt jungle, but in the middle of a beautiful natural area that includes a creek and extensive oak woodland, in addition to our outdoor adventure at the Sea Center. The Museum is taking advantage of this great resource by by conducting much of its education about nature in nature. There is no better way to kindle a passion for nature, to grow children healthy in body and soul, to stimulate an interest in science, and to make learning fun, than by engaging children in hands-on exploration outdoors. The Leave No Child Inside Endowment would support the continued maintenance and improvement of the outdoor education program and outstanding educators.

Endowments -- Building an Enduring Legacy


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